By Jennifer Odera, Babson MBA 2015 and founder of T&Co.
As a first time entrepreneur working on a food business, I often find myself having big, audacious requests that I have to temper out and stage for my audience. (I’ve always believed, “your dreams aren’t big enough if they don’t scare you” )
In fact, more often than not, I request 20% of my ask, and while that is being met, I start to amp up and stage out the remaining 80. This works pretty well, especially in situations where there is the opportunity to build a relationship and have numerous interactions with my benefactors, as they slowly begin to invest in me or my dream.
So when faced with the opportunity to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show with my business T&Co., an online monthly tea subscription that delivers tea experiences from around the world in a box, I jumped at the chance. At a huge food conference/showcase like this, you are instantly thrown into a networking pool, unlike anything else, and you need to quickly learn how to swim. It is an exercise in improving your elevator pitch as you are able to quickly gauge people’s level of interest in your “business plug” and modify it as you go along.
You are exposed to a number of fascinating people who could make or break your business and you have to learn how to instantly charm them and line them up for the perfect size ask. One that isn’t too big to allow them to feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, or too small to limit the value of their involvement and your time. So it’s a balancing act, that you never quite perfect.
After some initial attempts and exchanged business cards I decided to throw caution to the wind, be brave and go for the impossible. If this experience was to yield maximum impact for my time and effort then I needed to make my asks bold and go after the big shots. This included asking a 33-year-old household brand if they would private label their teas for my startup to asking Gail Simmons if she could be part of my beta and if her talented husband could collaborate on one of my teaboxes.
I’m happy to report that to my surprise more people said yes than no and I am currently exchanging e-mails to realize more than one of my courageous requests.
So the moral of the story is just ask.